difficult hill

I decide to tackle, on my new mountain bike, the woods and hills beyond the end of Deer Hill Road—the woods and hills of my big country block. I start by biking the dusty lane: just before the end of the road is an old graveyard, weed-grown and neglected, hidden from view behind a stone wall. I can’t say when someone was last buried here. A weathered granite headstone among sprouting trees and blueberry thickets reads: “Eli H. Cushman … died … 1876. Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.”

This old inscription is not too weathered to read, but it would have been better preserved in slate. Slate beats granite all to pieces for grave markers. Being originally clay, and having endured the stages of compaction and metamorphism, slate weathers far better than granite with its three constituents. And this is evident in these old grave markers where words in slate are legible long after those in granite have crumbled away.

Bike past the graveyard, continue down my neighbor’s lane toward its dead-end. Here one needs permission to walk. The private lane is enclosed by walls of hills which rise above a deep brook-carved ravine. I’ve never climbed to the conifer-crowned top of Deer Hill itself. From here it’d be no difficult feat to reach that low summit. I need only to drop the bike and bushwhack the remaining 250 ft. of elevation between road and summit.

But at the end of the road I turn right instead, intending to scout a route to another of the old hills.